NEWPORT, R.I. — Mourners including former President Bill Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid gathered Monday for the funeral of former Sen. Claiborne Pell, who created the federal education grants that helped millions of Americans afford college.
The Rhode island Democrat died Thursday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease at the age of 90.
Clinton, Vice President-elect Joe Biden and Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts planned to eulogize Pell during the funeral liturgy at Trinity Episcopal Church.
The line of mourners waiting to get inside the church stretched around the block.
Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed and Pell's grandson, Nicholas Lorillard Pell, also were scheduled to eulogize the former senator.
First elected to the Senate in 1960, the multimillionaire who sometimes jogged in a tweed coat spent his career representing a working-class state.
He sponsored legislation creating the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant program, which passed in 1972 and provided direct aid to college students. The awards were renamed "Pell Grants" in 1980. By the time he retired, they had aided more than 54 million low- and middle-income Americans.
Pell was also the main Senate sponsor of the 1965 law creating the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. He participated in the 1945 San Francisco conference that wrote the United Nations charter and served in the U.S. foreign service for seven years.
Pell left office in January 1997 after his sixth term.
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